Category Archives: Cb Insights

… and Unintended Consequences

Perception is a funny thing.  I have a habit of writing emails in a fairly stream of consciousness style. Not all that dissimilar from this blog.  And as a result, punctuation and grammar are not top priority.

One of the things I do to connect thoughts is use ellipses – you know — these things …

So I’ll write stuff like “how did things go with the migration…as expected?…curious to see how clients like the new people search…”

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The Blurb

We trying to share interesting articles in our newsletter in addition to our own data-driven content in a section we call the blurb. It’s one of several experiments we’re going to try to increase our reach.  We call the section with these articles The Blurb. Here is The Blurb from today’s CB Insights newsletter. It’s fun to “force” myself to read interesting new content regularly. Yup – I have a great job 🙂
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This is a title I’ve never really been comfortable with. To me, a CEO was Jack Welch of GE or Ken Chenault of my alma mater American Express. They ran huge organizations, had big offices and were as the initials imply – executive officers. They did executive’y things.

And so I always found it funny when someone who was just 1 person or one person plus a buddy who introduced themselves as CEO of their startup. They were in the truest sense I suppose, but it just seemed like false advertising or perhaps grade inflation to me. But I’m skeptical by nature or just maybe a dick or a bit of both.

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Solving Opacity in the Private Markets

Private markets are often described as opaque. They are.  The participants don’t necessarily want it this way, but because there is no central clearinghouse for information or data or insights, information ends up siloed – often in the heads of individuals in the market. With 4000+ clients ranging from investors to acquirers to bankers to lawyers to recruiters to biz dev people using CB Insights, we now have a community of folks who are incredibly knowledgeable about private companies, emerging trends and more.

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Saying no to money

Today, I told 4 clients that we couldn’t meet their price or contract terms. I hate saying no to money. I really really do.

But as I’ve understood the value we provide and how much we help our clients, I’ve had to become more comfortable saying no.

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No Risk, All Reward – The Startup Career Path

The post on Hacker News had some interesting comments.  Here’s one that caught my eye as pasted below (bold emphasis is mine):

The model is a fairly quick development cycle, fast early adopter sales, quick conversion to cash flow positive. Well, that’s a lot of things that have to go right all in a row with only $100k to start…. It may be enough to start some kinds of businesses, but many will require significantly more in startu pcapital to brave even an accelerated road to break-even.

As to the model, the question is does it fully factor in the risk level? The idea is lower the goalpost and manage the cash burn more carefully, to ultimately obtain a faster break-even and then ride growth through reinvesting profits, to some point in the future when you can actually start making distributions. The premise, possibly flawed, is that by not shooting for the stars you should be less likely the fail. They don’t need to win as big each time, because they will win more often?

Businesses need capital to grow. It’s that simple. $100k is a bare minimum startup fund for a sole founder for less than 6 months. It’s not a serious amount of money. You can’t expect that $100k to buy enough revenue to sustain full-time employees and also be paying out a meaningful dividend.

If the idea is to really, truly, avoid VCs and institutional investors…. I think you need to be able to seed about $2m. For example, structured as a Line of Credit, drawn over 48 months, but with warrants to convert into common stock at some ratio. The conversion ratio in the warrants adjusts to provide anti-dilution as needed.

That would provide a real amount of money for a 2-3 person team to potentially solve a real problem. And that would give the investors a meaningful percentage of the company and choice between a cash payoff or taking shares. That would be a really appealing alternative to VC funding which some strong founding teams might take notice.

Here’s my diplomatic’ish answer on HN:

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I’ve been sitting down with the team to do year end reviews. They are focused on what they did well, what could have gone better, what I did well, could have done better and what the company overall is doing well and could be better at.

They’ve been fantastic.
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Do You Have to Be Excited by Your Startup?

I read the great annual report by SaaS entrepreneur Patrick McKenzie (known on hacker news as patio11) and he talked about challenges he’s had with not being excited by the problem his startup is solving (note: his startup is called Appointment Reminder and reminds clients of service providers, think doctors, nail salons, etc of their appointments via automated calls as people not showing up is opportunity and revenue lost for those service providers).

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Blog Comments

A lot of notable web publishers have turned off comments recently. I know people have strong opinions on both sides of the fence. One of the things I’m seeing on the CB Insights research blog are some posts with some really top notch, very smart comments.  We regulate comments pretty heavily so people who spam or who are just being a-holes get rejected.  We get comments pretty infrequently so it’s easy to do.

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The Benefits of Being Promiscuous in Business

One of the things we’ve done well at CB Insights is have certain principles about the growing importance of data vs pundits in making decisions and  the importance of building a business that is fundamentally about customers.  We’ve however, been very open to how our data can be used and the customers it can serve. At times, not knowing which market to go after has made me feel like we were being too promiscuous chasing markets.

The adage of having strong opinions which are weakly held is what has served us well.

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